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European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe

 

(Second) Kingdom of Albania
AD 1914 - 1925

Much of the territory of the early Albanians formed the province of Epirus Nova (Illyria Graeca) under the early Eastern Roman empire. It remained a Roman possession until imperial fragmentation allowed the formation of the principality of Arbanon within modern Albanian borders in 1190. This is sometimes claimed as the first Albanian state.

The '(First) Kingdom of Albania' was established in 1272, but its founding coincided with a turbulent period in Balkans history as the Eastern Roman empire gradually collapsed and the Ottomans and various European interests fought over the scraps, especially the Bulgarians, Croatians, and Serbians. The kingdom lasted until its ever-diminishing territory saw it surrender to Venice in 1392.

The death of Emperor Stefan Dušan of Serbia in 1355 allowed members of the Albanian nobility to establish independent or semi-independent dominions of their own. However, it took Gjergj Kastrioti, known as 'Skanderbeg', to change matters for the longer term. He captured Kruja in November 1443 and declared its independence from the Ottomans. Under his leadership, the Albanian League, or 'League of Lezhë', was formed by the Albanian aristocracy as a military and diplomatic alliance.

After the capture of Scutari, and a battle in Friuli, peace was agreed in 1479 between the Ottomans and Venice. Thereafter the Balkans were largely a possession of the Ottomans. Albanians served in this empire, and Albanian units were part of Muhammad Ali's grab for power in Egypt in 1805 (Muhammad Ali himself was Albanian).

Modern Albania, one of Europe's poorest states, became unexpectedly independent after the Albanian Uprising of 1912 and the First Balkan War (1912-1913). The Ottoman empire was rapidly losing ground in Europe, and various new states were emerging from its turbulent collapse. Following the war it was decided that the newly formed kingdom of Yugoslavia would not take control of this Balkans coastal territory. Instead the '(Second) Kingdom of Albania' was declared, with Wilhelm of Wied as its monarch.

Mostar Bridge, Bosnia and Herzegovina, by Sofia Adventures

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from European Dictatorships: A Comparative History of the Twentieth Century, Gerhard Besier & Katarzyna Stokłosa, from Denkschrift über Albanien, Wilhelm zu Wied (Berlin, 1917, in German), from Leopold Kammerhofer, Elisabeth Springer (Archiv und Forschung: Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 1993, in German), and from External Links: CIA World Factbook (content no longer available there, but can be found on Grades Fixer), and Albania under Prince Wied.)

1912

With independence comes the formation of a provisional government, on 4 December 1912. The man responsible for the Albanian declaration of independence, Ismail Qemali, leads the new government as prime minister.

Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1914
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Prussia and the German empire inspects his troops on the eve of war in 1914, a war which none of the tributary German principalities had any chance of escaping

1913 - 1914

In November 1913, Albanian pro-Ottoman forces offer the Albanian throne to the Ottoman war minister, Izzet Pasha, a man who is himself of Albanian origin. The Ottoman empire sends agents into the country to encourage a revolt, while Izzet Pasha sends Major Beqir Grebenali, another ethnic Albanian, to act as one of his chief representatives in Albania.

The provisional government captures Major Grebenali and executes him, angering the 'Great Powers' in the process. The 'International Commission of Control' is established by the 'Great Powers' to oversee the country's establishment as a fully independent state, and Qemali is forced to step aside, resigning in January 1914.

As the two neighbouring countries with the greatest interest in Balkan affairs, Austria-Hungary and Italy are able to select Prince Wied as the first prince of an independent Albania. This prince from Neuwied on the Rhine is a cousin of the German emperor, with several other royal connections. He arrives in Albania on 7 March 1914.

King Wilhelm of Wied of Albania
William of Wied was a prince of northern German extraction from Neuwied on the Rhine, a cousin of Germany's Emperor Wilhelm II and with several other relations in positions of high nobility in Europe

1914 - 1925

Wilhelm of Wied

Left the country never to return after 6 months.

1914 - 1918

With its neighbours around it going to war, including Greece, Serbia, and Austria-Hungary, Albania remains neutral throughout the First World War. However, Prince Wilhelm elects to leave the country due to serious levels of unrest within its borders which make it virtually ungovernable despite his best intentions. He departs on 3 September 1914, never to return.

1925

The official declaration of an Albanian republic ends Wilhelm's reign in exile. However, he retains his title and his son, Carol Victor, succeeds him in 1945 as an hereditary prince of Albania. This individual and any successive claimants to the throne are shown below with a shaded background.

Ahmed Zogu is elected as the first president of the new republic, but he has regal ambitions of his own. Albanian borders by now are much reduced from those of the so-called 'Greater Albanian' territory which had left the Ottoman empire in 1912.

Benito Mussolini
Would-be creator of an Italian empire but largely possessing second-rate military forces, Benito Mussolini as 'Il Duce' became the country's dictatorial leader in the run-up to the Second World War

1925 - 1945

Wilhelm of Wied

Retained his claim from exile. Succeeded by his son.

1927 - 1928

Diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia reach an absolute low, and are terminated on 5 April 1927. Italy seizes the opportunity to agree closer relations with Albania (embodied in the person of Ahmed Zogu) and also increase its encirclement of Belgrade with the signing of the Second Tirana Pact on 22 November 1927.

Zogu's incentive is the recreation of an Albanian monarchy with him as king. Both chambers of parliament decide to dissolve themselves on 7 June 1928, and Zogu - with Italian money - organises the successful proclamation of a '(Third) Kingdom of Albania'.

 
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